Durable Power of Attorney, Health Care Proxy, and Wills: What You Need to Know

The estate planning process encompasses a range of important legal and financial matters.

No one likes to think about death or dying, yet it is important to be prepared in case of an emergency.

Especially, for instance, young parents who have minor children…what will happen to your kids if something happens to you?

The “Durable” Power of Attorney vs. (Non-Durable) Power of Attorney

A power of attorney is a written document authorizing another person to act on your behalf. For instance, it may enable you to appoint another person to act on your behalf in certain financial affairs. For example, signing a check, paying your bills, or even buying or selling real estate, would be valid uses of a power of attorney.

However, should you become disabled or incapacitated your power of attorney will end. Well, it will end unless it explicitly states that it is a durable power of attorney. A durable power of attorney stays in effect even if you become incapacitated or disabled. In estate and family protection planning this becomes a vital document for your trusted family to act on your behalf when you are not able to.

You can read more about how a durable power of attorney is a cornerstone of a rock solid estate plan, here.

Health Care Proxy, Another Kind of Durable Power of Attorney

A healthcare proxy is also known by other titles, including a durable power of attorney for health care, a health care power of attorney, medical power of attorney, or an appointment of a health care agent. By whatever name you have come to know it as the role of a health care proxy is to act on your behalf in case medical decisions become necessary and you are unable to provide consent.

We covered this in actual real-life scenarios in this article. However, for the case of this discussion, the risk of not having a health care proxy is that someone who does not know you, has no idea of your care wishes, values, or end of life preferences, could be making those decisions for you – absent this contingency. Wouldn’t you rather a trusted family member or even friend made these decisions?

10 Basics of a Will

A will is a legal document that states what you would like to happen to your property and assets after your death. Though essential to your estate plan, and probably the most often thought of a piece of an estate plan, a Will is not the sole part of a great plan. Here is an article outlining the benefits and blindspots of a Will.

While you ponder that – here are ten things you SHOULD place in your will:

1. Name an executor
2. Nominate someone to be the guardian of your minor children.
3. Name the beneficiaries and which specific property or assets they should receive
4. Specify alternate beneficiaries in case one of the primary beneficiaries is no longer living
5. Name a person or organization to take whatever is leftover in the estate
6. Specify how personal assets should be divided and whether they should go directly to the beneficiary or be sold for cash value
7. Allocate how business assets are to be divided and if they are to be kept separate from personal assets
8. Outline how your debts, expenses and tax liabilities should be paid
9. Name a caretaker for your pets because the law considers them to be property
10. Declare/discuss funeral plans

Finding the Best Advocate to Bring All This Together

There is a lot of information online about estate planning. In fact, there are even programs you can buy. However, there is no replacement for a plan built custom to your needs & wishes. A plan constructed in consultation with you by an attorney who specializes in estate planning and family protection law! We think we fit that bill and do a pretty good job too, but you don’t have to take our word for it.

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